I don’t believe in the whole “west coast versus east coast” rivalry. Having visited Los Angeles numerous times, I found each visit topped the last. Last year, I spent ten days there and was able to dive head first into the city’s best spots. For some context, you can typically find me on an architecture tour or gallery hopping. Without further ado, this list is my starter guide to LA art museums.
I’m starting this list off with the LACMA in the Hollywood area, which most people consider the “easiest” art museum to digest in LA. By now, you’ve surely seen the iconic large-scale lamp post installation by Chris Burden, which brings both kids and adults alike to play in. But what lies within the LACMA’s walls goes way beyond an Instagram moment.
With a comprehensive number of programs and learning opportunities, this is the place where the local arts community meets. For example, a new, special membership called LACMA LOCAL seeks to connect members with their inner artist through workshops, discussions, and more.
LACMA’s extensive film program, with showings held at the Bing Theater, covers guest-curated programs, cult gems, documentaries, and conversations in movie making. They also offer matinee screenings of Hollywood classics every Tuesday.
Finally, the museum’s stellar installations deserve an applause. From Michael Heizer’s “Levitated Mass,” to the highly regarded Stanley Kubrick retrospective, the LACMA boasts a pretty democratic range of disciplines, themes, and mediums. My personal favorites through the years include said Kubrick show and “California Design 1930-1965: Living in a Modern Way.”
The LACMA is split into a handful of buildings, which makes getting around easy and gives you the chance to catch your breath after each exhibit. The LACMA is a must for any first-time LA visitor. When visiting, check out their current exhibitions and you may just find something you’ll love.
The Broad Museum
This Downtown LA spot is the most exciting art development to take place in the city in ages. Sure, some say it looks like a cheese grater or a building with a belly button, but skeptics need not complain. At The Broad, visitors can appreciate giants like Basquiat, Twombly, Kusama, Warhol, Haring, and more.
Having a world-class art museum that offers free entry should not go unappreciated. On top of having a fantastic collection, featuring Yayoi Kusama’s “Infinity Mirrored Room,” and being the talk of the town, The Oculus Hall at The Broad (that name!) is where special performances, talks, discussions, and all-around learning experiences happen.
All praise aside–and understanding the workings of supply and demand–I plead that someone please figure out how to better manage ticketing. Access to The Broad is free, but one must reserve tickets (here!). All I can say is that the hassle is worth it.
The Museum of Contemporary Art
The Museum of Contemporary Art, or MOCA for short, is a shining beacon of the arts. The MOCA is where video installations, large-scale immersive works, and even art book fairs thrive. Here, you can expect to be really turned on to today’s greatest artists and explore alternative mediums of expression. MOCA is made up of numerous locations, so read-up and plan ahead:
- The Pacific Design Center is located in the heart of West Hollywood. It features exhibitions of mostly architecture and design.
- MOCA Geffen is housed in a former police car warehouse in Little Tokyo. After being remodeled by Frank Gehry, it boasts 40,000 square feet of exhibition space.
- MOCA Grand is the museum’s flagship location. This is where the main galleries live, along with Lemonade cafe, the store, and offices.
For the more well-versed art enthusiast, I highly recommend a visit to the Getty Center in West LA. The secluded property, including the Center and Villa, is one of the most incredible sights on the coastline, and the collection is truly amazing. The Getty is perfect for when you’re looking to escape the crowds and traffic.
We advise you to plan on spending a half or full day here. Maybe you can even hit up Matador Beach while you’re at it.